I disagree with today’s Seattle Times editorial on voter registration, and that’s okay — they’re entitled to their own opinion. But the headline they used, well, it’s fucking irresponsible: “Less tampering with state elections.”
I suppose, perhaps, they meant to advocate less tampering with state election laws, which seems to be the relatively even-tempered thesis of the editorial, but if they did, they could have just said so. No, instead they chose to leave a provocative, misleading headline dangling out there, that — even outside of the context of our 2004 gubernatorial election controversy — clearly implies that our state elections are being tampered with.
That’s tabloid journalism. Which again, I guess would be okay… if Frank Blethen were man enough to own up to the journalistic ethos that guides his op/ed pages.
Apart from its childish potshot at the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Eric Oemig (who is ironically presented as a figure of ridicule in a piece that stoops to quoting Sen. Pam “Who took my roses?” Roach as the voice of reason,) there is little opportunity for fisking in the body of the editorial itself. As far as I can tell, the facts don’t seem particularly distorted, and the unnamed author makes an effort to present both sides of the argument. But the headline… oy… the headline.
The headline belies the true history of election tampering in America, which despite the popularized image of ballot-box-stuffing and fraud, has predominantly relied on voter suppression. There is no need to tamper with the results of an election if you can succeed in preventing your opponents’ supporters from voting, and so poll taxes, poll tests, felon disenfranchisement, unequal access to voting facilities, voter roll purges, dirty tricks and outright intimidation have long been the primary means of manipulating the results.
The purpose of Election Day registration is to make it easier for eligible citizens to vote, thus increasing voter turnout and decreasing the opportunity for voter suppression. Hell… what’s the use of a voter roll purge if an eligible voter can just re-register on Election Day? As for accurately verifying these last minute registrants, even the Times admits that “it could be done.” They just don’t think it’s worth the time and money.
Registering to vote already is easy, and vote-by-mail has made voting easier. It is not so bad to require a little effort on the part of the citizen.
“We’re talking about adults here,” says Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn. “At some point, the people have to take a responsibility.”
I guess when one’s political agenda is shared by only a small fraction of the electorate, universal suffrage must lose its universal appeal.